Gov. Charlie Baker announced the nomination of Associate Justice Kimberly Budd to chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday. If confirmed, she will become the first female Black chief justice in the history of the state's top court.
Budd says the idea that she could be the first Black woman to lead the court is "a little overwhelming," but "meaningful." She added just being the chief justice is even more overwhelming.
"I really have valued being on the SJC, being an associate justice and just having a seat at the table and being able to raise issues or perspectives that might not otherwise be considered. And I will continue to do that," said Budd. "And there will be six other associate justices there and we'll have a chance to talk about all of it. I like that I have the opportunity to bring things to the group for their consideration."
In his remarks, Baker emphasized Budd's ability to listen and her commitment to fairness.
"One of the things that makes a leader special is their ability to bring those around them together because they are, in fact, hearing what they’re saying," Baker said. "Great listeners — and Kim Budd is a great listener — give people a sense that their views, their ideas, that they, matter. More than anything, at this particular time, this court needs to be led by someone who listens."
Baker and Budd both acknowledged that this nomination was bittersweet as the position was left vacant by Chief Justice Ralph Gants passing earlier this year.
Budd was first appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2016 by Baker, and since her confirmation has authored 85 decisions. At 54 years old, she will be the youngest chief justice of the SJC in 150 years. A graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, she is the daughter of former U.S. Attorney Wayne Budd, and the granddaughter of Joseph Anthony Budd, the first Black police officer in Springfield
Before being named to the top court, Budd became a judge in 2009 when former Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, nominated her for the Superior Court bench.
"Justice Budd is an inspired choice for the next Chief Justice of our highest court," Patrick said in a statement. "She is a thoughtful, measured jurist, experienced in both trial and appellate courts, patient, collegial, empathetic and a great listener. Like her predecessor, she will take care to seek justice, not just technical legal accuracy."
Speaking on WBUR's Radio Boston, Suffolk county DA Rachael Rollins called Budd, an exceptional jurist.
"She is supremely qualified... a really great temperament, gets along well with everyone," said Rollins. "[As] the mother of two young African American sons, I think [she] has a really interesting lived history as well. So it's really just a great day for the Commonwealth."
Anthony Benedetti, chief counsel at Committee for Public Counsel Services, called the selection "a historic moment."
"I am confident she will blaze her own trail while maintaining the positive momentum Chief Justice Gants left behind," he said. "I applaud Governor Baker for this decision, and I hope this is an indication that his administration will continue to select high court justices with diverse backgrounds and experiences.”
The Massachusetts Bar Association, in a statement, praised Baker's choice for chief justice.
“Justice Kimberly Budd has been a trailblazer throughout her professional career, particularly for African American women and attorneys of color, and her elevation to chief justice is an inspired choice by Governor Baker,” said Massachusetts Bar Association President Denise I. Murphy. “While no one could fill the enormous shoes left by the unexpected passing of Chief Justice Gants, Justice Budd’s proven leadership, sharp legal mind and dedication to fairness will serve her well as she makes her own mark on the court for years to come.”
Budd's nomination now goes to the Governor's Council, which is expected to approve it. Meanwhile, Governor Baker still has two more vacancies to fill, which he is expected to do before the end of the year.
When complete, Baker will have had a historic influence on the court: the appointment of all seven judges on the court.
With reporting by WBUR's Amy Gorel, Steve Brown and the State House News Service's Matt Murphy.
The audio attached to this post is a Morning Edition conversation between WBUR's Bob Oakes and Steve Brown.
This article was originally published on October 28, 2020.
This segment aired on October 29, 2020.